General Tattoo Aftercare Instructions
These will be your standard instructions for all tattoos. However, everyone heals differently and every tattoo will heal differently so always defer to your artist if they give you any special instructions per tattoo.
- Keep bandage on for 2-4 hours. This allows for the tattoo to bleed without the lymph/plasma in your blood drying out and possibly causing a scab.
- Carefully remove bandage. If bandage sticks to the skin, then rinse with warm water until bandage loosens. Expect to see blood, ink, and lymph (looks like a clear plasma-like excretion) on the bandage and the tattoo itself.
- Using CLEAN HANDS, gently rinse the tattooed area with lukewarm water, making sure to remove excess blood, ink, and lymph.
- Thoroughly wash the tattooed area with lukewarm water and anti-bacterial or mild soap. DO NOT scrub with your nails, sponge, or a loofah, only use your fingertips and palms.
- After thoroughly cleaned, rinse with cold water to tighten and close pores. (This will help in the healing process!)
- Pat dry with a clean, dry towel or clean paper towel, and let tattoo rest in open air for 10 minutes before applying product.
- Using CLEAN HANDS, apply a small dab of Aquaphor to the tattooed area and rub in the small dab of product over the entire tattooed area, creating a very thin layer. Do not apply a thick or gooey layer of product. (Under moisturizing can be a problem, but over moisturizing can create bigger problems!)
- Repeat the “Wash-Dry-Apply” steps (#4-7) two to three times daily: in the morning, afternoon, and before bed for 72 hours post-tattoo.
- After 72 hours, while continuing to “Wash-Dry-Apply,” start using an unscented plain white lotion instead of Aquaphor for approximately 2 weeks, or until the tattoo is completely healed. We recommend brands like Eucerin, Curel, or Lubiderm.
Additional care instructions for
Dri-Loc Pads and Saniderm
Dri-Loc Pads: These are square plastic pads that absorb the fluids that weep from your tattoo and protect it in its open wound stage. They are most useful in the first few days of caring for your tattoo when the tattoo is most likely to weep fluids as it’s trying to heal. Usually these are recommended in tattoos with heavy shading or color as these pieces tend to weep the most. These pads are more breathable than just regular plastic wrap and keep your clothes or bedsheets safe from the fluids that may leak.
- After cleaning, apply dri-loc pads to dry skin to fully cover tattooed area.
- If multiple pads are needed, fold back non-absorbing plastic section before adding another layer of dri-loc pad to ensure the tattoo is completely covered in the absorbent pad.
- Use tape to hold in place or athletic tape if the area of the body allows for the tattoo to be wrapped.
- Remove and replace after 6-8 hours of wear, or as needed. Clean before replacing.
Saniderm: A transparent adhesive bandage that stays on the skin an provides a breathable barrier that protects against dirt and germs, offering protection from friction and other irritants.
Instructions on application can be found in expanded detail on Saniderm’s website here: https://saniderm.com/how-to-use/.
How long should you keep Saniderm on?
“After you apply the first Saniderm bandage, we recommend leaving it on your new tattoo for between 8 to 24 hours. Everyone heals differently, and the length of time will vary depending on how much fluid your tattoo is weeping. When the adhesion of the Saniderm bandage begins to weaken, that’s your cue to remove or replace the bandage. If you notice excessive weeping or fluid under your currently applied piece of Saniderm, it’s okay to carefully replace it with a new one. If your tattoo exudes more plasma and blood than usual (this is common with heavy saturation and color work), you may find yourself having to change it earlier.
Regardless of how much fluid build up you experience, you should always make your best effort to change the initial film at the 24-hour mark to clean the area and replace the bandage. After you apply the first Saniderm bandage, the second bandages can be worn for 3 to 5 days.”
What to Expect:
Every tattoo is going to heal differently depending on what was tattooed, where on the body it was tattooed, the level of trauma done to the skin in the process of tattooing, and most importantly, you. Your artist should give you a projected timeframe of healing, but in general tattoos may take up to two weeks for the skin to heal over, 6-8 weeks for the skin to completely heal and will be ready for touch-ups if necessary to avoid scarring, and 6 months+ for the skin to return to its normal texture. The following is a rough timeline of what to expect during the healing process.
In the first few days, the tattoo is considered an open wound at this point. It may be sensitive to touch, feel warmer than other parts of the body, become swollen, and weep fluids like plasma and blood. These fluids may be dark or have similar colors to the tattoo, but don’t worry, these are excess pigments the body is pushing out. These are all normal signs of healing and the main objective of caring for your tattoo in these first few days is to keep it clean to lower the risk of infection and also lightly moisturized to prevent heavy scabbing.
After a few days, the tattoo may develop scabs or begin shedding old skin. Be sure to moisturize with lotion once or twice a day, taking care not to overuse product. Let your tattoo breathe and heal on its own.
In a week, the tattoo should be shedding and flaking. Any scabs that may have formed will eventually fall off to reveal new skin. The skin may be shiny/waxy in appearance or slighly opaque as the skin is freshly forming. Patchiness or discoloration may occur, in which case please allow the tattoo to completely heal for 6-8 weeks before determining the need for a touchup so that scarring is less likely to occur with the touch up.
In two weeks, the tattoo should be healed enough so that all scabs have shed and the overall texture of the skin is even. This is the earliest time to begin work on the next session of a larger piece if applicable.
An infection is rare to occur if your artist has used safe and sterile working procedures and also if you’re taking proper care of the tattoo. But usually signs of infection can be an intense sensitivity to touch, pus could be weeping from the tattoo, and it may have a foul odor. If this is the case, seek out medical attention immediately and contact your local health district to report the infection.
Do’s and Don’ts:
DO NOT pick or scratch your tattoo while it is healing. You have the potential to rip out a scab which may cause bleeding and pigment fallout. If your tattoo is itchy, then it’s usually a sign that the skin is slightly dehydrated. Apply a thin layer of lotion and rub into the tattoo.
Do use product lightly. There is a tendency among clients to overuse product in the hopes that if you use a lot that the tattoo will heal faster and better. This is not remotely the case and could cause more harm than good.
DO NOT use a tanning bed or subject your tattoo to long periods of exposure to direct sunlight. The sun is extremely damaging to your skin and will not only painfully irritate your skin, but just like how the skin may bleach objects left in the sun, your tattoo may lose its color and vibrancy after so much exposure. If your tattoo is healed, apply a sunblock with high sun protection of at least 50 SPF. If your tattoo is still healing, keep it covered underneath your clothes.
Do drink plenty of water and rest often. Staying well hydrated is an overall health benefit, but will help your tattoo heal faster. Take it easy for the first few days of healing. Going to the gym is fine, but be mindful of your tattoo in the sense of keeping it away from touching any equipment and washing it if sweat lands on it. Try to work on part of the body opposite from where the tattoo was done, so if you got an arm tattoo, focus on legs and vice versa.
DO NOT soak in the bathtub, swim in pools, and obviously keep away from bodies of water with a fresh tattoo. Your risk for infection skyrockets when you soak your tattoo, even in your own tub as all of the water is full dirt and germs that have shed from all over your body–including your orifices–and that’s gross! Don’t fucking do it!